The role of ex combatants in reconciliation

It is estimated that nearly 11,000 former LTTE cadres either gave themselves up or were taken in by the Sri Lankan Army at the end of the war in May 2009. According to Major General Chandana Rajaguru the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, 10,000 of these former LTTE cadres have been rehabilitated and released. Whilst some criticisms have been leveled against the rehabilitation process, many commentators would argue that overall the process has been a success. The government has repeatedly stated that rehabilitation of ex-combatants is an integral part in the overall reconciliation process. This article will explore some encouraging consequences that are a result of rehabilitation and look into ways in which the system can be strengthened.
In liberalized terminology, GoSL terms ex combatants as beneficiaries. They have gone through a varied rehabilitation process, a combination of vocational training and de radicalization including spiritual learning and meditation. Many if not all of these ex combatants have committed grave crimes against the military forces as well as civilian populations during the war, but their rehabilitation and release have had a positive impact on their lives. Heartening evidence is provided by the fact that a few of ex-combatants have gone on to medical school in the University System, many have completed some sort of vocational training while others have entered into marriage with other former cadres in an attempt to start a new life.
Academics defending the government’s stance on releasing many ex-combatants with a violent past have stated that it is a real need to forgive crimes committed by ex combatants, and that forgiveness will play a crucial role in moving the reconciliation process forward. There can be little doubt that this is true, and forgiveness is indeed a corner stone of reconciliation.
Some questions however have arisen about this leniency. One TNA MP has pointed out that, while some hardcore LTTE cadres have been released, there are many Tamils who languish in detention facilities as in Boosa for years for lesser crimes.
Whilst rehabilitation and release are important parts of ex combatants being restored back into their community, the greatest challenge they face is during reintegration back into their communities. There are accounts from people on the ground of ex-combatants who have returned to their former villages only to realize that they are no longer welcome. This is of course no surprise since many Tamils suffered due to LTTE activities, and now have begun to resent the presence of former LTTE combatants. Furthermore, and more damagingly, it seems that female ex-combatants are most at risk after returning home. In Batticoloa there were nearly 700 female ex-combatants who have been reintegrated in to area. According to accounts from the area, two females recently committed suicide after prolonged sexual harassment. This raises an important issue of the follow up programs that needs to be put in place in order to protect the interests of these individuals when they are most vulnerable. While the government has put in place some follow up programs to allow these ex-combatants to secure financial aid, through micro finances or job placement, there has been no psychosocial program to aid these individuals in the reintegration process.
While large amounts of funds have been allocated by both the government and other international agencies/foreign governments (International Organization for Migration, International Labor Organization, the government of Australia, U.S.A and Japan to name a few) in the rehabilitation process, there seems to be a lack of programs aimed at specifically monitoring the wellbeing of these individuals once they return home.

The government now after successfully completing the initial phase of rehabilitation must implement a monitoring and support structure mechanism to aid ex-combatants when back at home. This would ensure that the good work that has been done is not wasted, and that ex-combatants are supported right through the process of entering society. Having such mechanisms will reduce the risk of these individuals being the victims of those who wish to take advantage of their situation, and also reduce their vulnerability to be radicalized once again, and or become unproductive members of their communities.
International organizations and friendly countries too must aid these individuals in the years to come in their arduous journey towards being fully integrated in to a civil society. Furthermore, the government at the earliest must process the cases that are pending for the hundreds of individuals who are incarcerated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Justice needs to be balanced and equitable. The path to reconciliation must be a holistic one that leaves no one behind.
By Shakya Lahiru Pathmalal

Kokweliya irrigation Anicut scheme inaugurated

The newly Reconstructed Kokweliya irrigation Anicut scheme was ceremonially inaugurated by Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri at Kokweliya, Vavuniya on 12th November 2011.
The project, which will be handed over to the Department of Agrarian Services of the Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, will help 155 resettled farming families in the Kokweliya to restart their traditional agricultural based livelihood.
The 13 Million(Rs) worth project, which is part of a 3-year IOM community development programme in Sri Lanka’s Northern and Central Provinces, will enable controlled irrigation for paddy cultivation in both wet and dry farming seasons, reduce flooding of farmland and provide access to neighbouring villages as well.
Religious Clergies, Government Agent of Vavuniya Mrs.P.S.M.Charles, Project Manager of IOM Charignon Patrick, Regional Commissioner for Vavuniya and Mannar districts I.S.M Mohideen, Divisional Secretary of Vavuniya South division, Assistant Commissioner of Department of Agrarian Services for Vavuniya and public also participated in this function.

Inaugurated by Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri & Project Manager of IOM Charignon Patrick


Lighting of the traditional oil lamp by a local women in the presence of Northern province GA & IOM officials Charignon Patrick & Vedha Karrupiah.


Opening the anicut gates.....

It is hoped that the resettled will benefit from this scheme not only for agriculture but through the development of agri-business skills too, in line with training programmes that have been initiated.

Source: http://www.np.gov.lk

ILO supports developing Cottage Industries in the North of Sri Lanka

Cottage industries such as poultry farming, vegetable cultivation and bee keeping have become a popular way of income generation among returnees in the North of Sri Lanka. According to Mr Prem Kumar, Area Manager for the Bank of Ceylon, Northern Vavuniya District, there are many applications for loans for poultry and home gardens.
Poultry farming
This is the most popular industry as there is a ready-made market in the villages, so that transportation is not an issue. Selvakumar Arundha of Allankulam village in Mullaitivu District started a poultry farm with an initial investment of $270 pooled by six women in early 2010. Each of them earns about $2.50 per day from the farm now and more sales are expected for Christmas.
Paddy parboiling
To ensure that farmers won’t fall prey to control of prices by outside buyers, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is supporting them to set up home paddy parboiling operations by January 2012.
30 single female-headed households in the Vavuniya North region have been selected for the programme. Each woman will be given a grant of Rs 75,000 ($680) to buy the large pots needed for the parboiling and build a small storage area. They will be linked to five small mills near their villages, also supported by the organization, which will buy the paddy. A kilo gramme of paddy will make them a profit of around Rs 5 and the mills will buy the paddy for at least two years. ILO plans to fund 10 such mills and 60 households.
Bee keeping
Vavuniya North Division is suitable for bee keeping as there are over 50,000 hectares of jungle in the area. It is also a profitable industry with an expected annual income of 10 hives is about Rs 72,000 ($650).
Transportation of produce is the greatest problem faced by farmers, and the development of the roads connecting remote villages would increase cottage industries in the area.
Assistance for projects in these areas would be welcome. Facilitation of micro-credit can be provided by contributions to the fund set up at the Commercial Bank in Vavuniya to provide collateral.

By Chathuri Jayawardana

CHA and ILO join the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation in promoting socio-economic reintegration of ex-combatants and other conflict affected youth in Pooneryn

While the rehabilitation and reintegration of most ex-combatants has been successfully pursued by the Government of Sri Lanka, in order to ensure that deradicalization is not derailed it is essential to ensure economic support for these former victims of terrorism. Many programmes of economic reintegration are conducted for the ex-combatants, though support to extend these is always welcome.
Out of approximately 11,500 LTTE ex-combatants, more than 10,000 are back at home after the rehabilitation programme conducted by the Bureau of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation (BCGR). In order to support secure and peaceful reintegration of these individuals, the International Labour Organization (ILO) supported BCGR to offer Community Based Reintegration (CBR) through vocational training and enterprise development support. BCRG partnered the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) for ground implementation together with technical guidance from NAITA.
Economic reintegration is at the heart of the wider reintegration process, and remains central to the successful re-integration of ex-combatants. Many indicate that being able to provide for one`s family is an integral part of their identity and respect in the community. Reintegration is a process assisting in the transition of ex-combatants from military to civilian livelihoods, in which communities and families play a crucial role. In CBR the community assumes a more central role and is provided in general with tools, training and means to support and accompany the reintegration process. In CBR-type of approaches combatants are assisted together with other members of the community. This also serves to reduce the resentment of those who were not combatants but find much being done for the latter.
Under the Community Based Reintegration project in August 2011 nearly 300 youths from Kilinochchi, both ex-combatants and others affected by the conflict, were provided at different locations in Pooneriyn, Kilinochchi and Karachchi DS Divisions with vocational training in areas such as computer hardware repair , tailoring, out boat motor engine repairs, TV repair, mobile phone repair, welding, agricultural equipment repair and motor bike repair. These youth are given vocational training and, following the successful completion of the training program, provided with a tool kit to start their own self employment.
It is hoped that further such programmes will be conducted, with stress also on soft skills to promote employment prospects.




International Aide et Action, which had begun delivery in Vavuniya of its model of personality development along with skills development, has put forward plans for further work in Mullaitivu too, and it is hoped that funding will be made available for this purpose. It is hoped that further such programmes will be conducted, with stress also on soft skills to promote employment prospects.
International Aide et Action, which had begun delivery in Vavuniya of its model of personality development along with skills development, has put forward plans for further work in Mullaitivu too, and it is hoped that funding will be made available for this purpose.
‘’An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’’ this is a well known proverb which can be proven right when correct conditions are met.
By Dr.A.S.A.Safras

Smiles worth millions – Artificial Limbs for War Amputees with Indian support for the Ministry of Health programmes



Picture – ‘’Both these children lost their limbs due to the war , but the new limbs they got give hope of a new beginning- a new life. The smile is worth a million’’.
Following nearly three decades of war many lost their limbs among them Civilians, members of the Security Forces and Ex-combatants. The Ministry of Health and Social Services with the support of INGOs and NGOs took up this challenge and provided required artificial limbs to those in need.
Apart from many programs conducted in Manik Farm , the Indian High Commission supported the provision of 1400 artificial limbs through the Jaipur-based Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS). Among these 1400 beneficiaries there were 400 Security Forces Personals, 400 Ex-combatants and the rest were IDPs from Welfare Villages. The artificial limb camp took place at Ananda Kumaraswamy Village (Zone 01) in Manik Farm in early 2010.


Once an artificial limb is provided there is a need of further follow up. Presently there are a few organizations a working on this regard in the Northern Province but more attention is needed.

By Dr.A.S.A.Safras

Beyond Prejudice – Sri Lanka’s Unique Rehabilitation Effort

Imagine a situation a hardcore Al Qaeda terrorist allowed to live a normal life in the U.S. after a quick rehabilitation. Even Jim McDonald, the head of Amnesty in the U.S. would rebuke such move, calling it a grave threat to the society.

How about a rehabilitated Hamas suicide bomber allowed play for an Israeli national football team? One would say “not in this world”. Existing prejudices do not permit such imaginations.

In Sri Lanka such imaginations are not only possible but also made a reality. Sri Lanka has become the first country in the world to rehabilitate terrorists.

Look at the pictures below. Once they were members of the ruthless terrorist outfit that invented the art of suicide bombing to the world. Today they are made guilt free through the rehabilitation process enabling them to change.

This is what discriminatory Human Right campaigners like Amnesty do not want to believe.

Oct. 31, 2011 photo, Marry Anita, left, and Malarvili Paramalingam, former Tamil Tiger rebel combatants, train with other members of Sri Lanka’s disabled volleyball team in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Three former Tamil Tiger rebel women combatants are set to represent Sri Lanka at the Asian Sitting Volleyball Open Championship scheduled to be held in Beijing later this month. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Malarvili Paramalingam, center in blue, a former Tamil Tiger rebel combatant, trains with other members of Sri Lanka’s disabled volleyball team in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s former Tamil Tiger combatants, in yellow play with other prison inmates during a friendly soccer match amid heavy rain in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Oct.24, 2011. Sri Lanka is to free 367 ex-Tamil Tiger rebels, who had undergone rehabilitation and vocational training in military-run rehabilitation centers on Tuesday ahead of Tamil festival Deepavli, a Sri Lankan prison official said.

former Tamil Tiger rebel combatants Marry Anita, fourth right, Malarvili Paramalingam, second left, and Navalogini Navendran, center, share a light moment with other members of Sri Lanka’s disabled volleyball team in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Diaspora offers to build Psychosocial centres

At the first meeting of the Civil Society Partnership for Reconciliation, held at the Reconciliation Office on November 1st, it was decided to recommend projects for support from the diaspora. The following project proposal follows on the establishment of seven such Psychosocial Centres in the Northern Province. Individuals who are interested in arranging sponsorship as requested, if required through an organization, should get in touch with Pushpi Weerakoon at the Reconciliation Office (slreconciliationunit@gmail.com / pushpiweerakoon@yahoo.co.uk) to indicate interest. We cannot of course monitor or guarantee activity, but we are aware that many individuals in the diaspora, of all communities, are anxious to help their fellow Sri Lankans, and in particular those now resettled in the Wanni. Several organizations have already provided assistance, but this project will allow concerted assistance in a field requiring much support.

Members of the diaspora in New Zealand have already indicated interest in working for the establishment of such a Centre in Oddusudan. Work in other areas in Mullaitivu and Mannar and Kilinochchi is encouraged.

Project Proposal to build Psychosocial centres:
Download PDF –  Project Proposal for Psychosocial Centres 3

Students from Velvettiturai attend Italian Opera at the Mt Lavinia Hotel

Opera was a new experience for students from Velvettithurai visiting Colombo on an exchange programme arranged by the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid-Town. In addition to the usual visits, including Parliament, as well as interactions with the business community, they were invited to the Mt Lavinia Hotel to view artists from the Teatro alla Scala Academy of Lyric Opera in Milan.

The event had been organized by the Italian Embassy in collaboration with several sponsors, and the ambassador kindly offered 10 tickets, worth Rs 3000 each, to the Reconciliation office for the students who would be visiting. They were accompanied by Prof Rajendran who had helped to arrange the visit.

Before the concert the students were greeted by the Italian ambassador Fabrizio Pia Arpea, and his Deputy, Dr Luca Rubagotti, as well as the Russian ambassador. The picture shows the students with their host and the Head of UNICEF, along with Pushpi Weerakoon, who coordinated the visit.


 

 

 

 

 

Housing projects in Sri Lanka by India

Assistance with housing has been an important part of support for resettlement in the North provided by India to the government of Sri Lanka. This took many forms, beginning with they supply during early resettlement of four consignments of Galvanized Corrugated Iron Sheets used for creating shelter for IDPs. A total of over one million sheets were supplied between August 2009 and May 2011, helping build temporary shelter for about 65,000 families.  The project cost $11.78 million.

400,000 cement bags (about 20,000 MT) were also supplied to resettling families in 2010. The project cost $1.8 million and cement was procured through UltraTech Cement, an Indian supplier in Sri Lanka.

Construction and repair of damaged houses is one of the major projects proposed by the Government of India in the next phase. 50,000 houses are proposed to be built in Northern and Eastern Provinces and also Upcountry areas. This is a fully grant-funded project, and estimated cost is $300-400 million. Groundbreaking for a pilot project of 1000 houses was done on 27.11.2010 with the assistance of the  Government of Sri Lanka.

These projects are based on the development philosophy of India which is focused on socio-cultural empathy and a consultative and responsive model of cooperation.

By Chathuri Jayawardana

“Developing educational exchanges is very useful…” Civil Society Partnership for Reconciliation

At the first meeting of the Civil Society Partnership for Reconciliation, it was noted that developing educational exchanges would be very useful. The Principal of Ladies College expressed her willingness to offer a few places to students from Kilinochchi or Mullaitivu. Any member of the diaspora willing to sponsor a student, from Grade 4 onward, is invited to get in touch with the Principal, Ladies College. Expressions of interest and inquiries as to costs involved may be made to Pushpi Weerakoon at the Reconciliation Office (slreconciliationunit@gmail.com / pushpiweerakoon@yahoo.co.uk) Pushpi coordinated the earlier Learn and Lead programme organized by the Business for Peace Alliance on a suggestion of the Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, and Ladies College provided an opportunity for two students from the regions to do their Advanced Levels. Other schools that participated in that initial programme were S. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia, St Benedict’s College, Kotahena, Methodist College and Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya.

By Pushpi Weerakoon